Even the most equable of tempers, it would seem, may now and then prove crotchety.
And who may say? Mr. Poynter was a young man of infinite resource. And there were other ways.
IN WHICH THE BARON PAYS
“Excellency,” said Philip politely, “I have returned.”
“Ah!” said the Baron cordially, marveling somewhat at the forbidding glint in the young man’s eyes. He was to learn presently its portent.
Within doors, a few men chatted in the billiard room. A girl was singing. The Baron, however, was the only occupant of the comfortable porch-room with the green-shaded lamp, to which Philip had come, passing Themar, who had left a tray of ice and creme de menthe upon the table.
With his customary deliberation the Baron selected a glass, filled it with shaved ice, which he as carefully covered with green creme de menthe, and pushed the delectable result across the table to his secretary.
Philip accepted with a formal expression of thanks.
“I am delighted,” rumbled the Baron, sipping his iced mint with keen appreciation, “to see that you are fully recovered.”
“And Themar?” inquired Philip coldly.
“He was not injured so badly as I feared,” admitted Tregar slowly. “His accident,” commented Philip quietly, “was to say the least coincidental—and convenient.”
“Just what do you mean?”
“Just why,” begged Philip icily, “did you wish me to intrude further upon the hospitality of Miss Westfall?”
“There was an errand,” reminded the Baron blandly. “Having discharged it myself, Poynter, I might—er—trust to you to report its consequences. There are possibilities of confidences over a camp fire—”
“You expected me to—spy upon Miss Westfall?”
“Pray believe,” said Philip stiffly, “that any confidence of Miss Westfall’s would have been to me—as your own.”
“I am to understand then,” commented His Excellency suavely, “that you made absolutely no effort—”
“You are to understand just that,” said Philip quietly. “Moreover,” he manfully met his chief’s level glance with one of inexorable decision, “I sincerely regret that hereafter I shall be unable to discharge my duties as your secretary.”
The Baron stirred.
“I may be honored by your reasons, Poynter?” he inquired quietly.
“The duties of a spy,” flashed Philip, “are peculiarly offensive to me. So is Themar.”
“Excellency,” said Philip curtly, “to-night as I entered, the lamplight fell full upon the face and throat of your valet.”
“Themar’s throat, Excellency, bears peculiar scars.”
“My dear Poynter! Themar’s fall injured him severely about the face and hands.”
“I have not forgotten,” insisted Philip grimly, “that Miss Westfall’s servant sunk his terrible fingers into the throat of the man whose knife scar I bear. Whether or not his knife was meant for me, I can not say. Nor have I sufficient proof openly to accuse him, but of this much I am convinced. Themar’s presence near the camp of Miss Westfall is, in the face of your peculiar and secretive errand, ominously significant.”